Researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders working under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project from Mali, Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria have converged on the campus of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan to develop work plans towards rapid dissemination and adoption of drought-tolerant maize.
The meeting in Ibadan also provided participants the opportunity to take a retrospect of the past and chart a way forward.
Addressing participants at this year’s annual planning meeting, Dr Tsedeke Abate, Coordinator of the DTMA Project, reminded stakeholders that the project provided a platform for researchers to demonstrate to donors and policy makers in Africa the benefits of research.
“This is an opportunity for us to show our policy makers that with the right kind of approach, we can make a difference,” Dr Abate added.
According to him, increasing the cultivation of drought-tolerant maize varieties in Africa will bring the necessary transformation and the needed boost for maize production in the continent.
Other drivers of adoption of drought tolerant varieties, he noted, include increasing the participation of women in maize projects and also the creation of new/strong partnerships.
Dr Abate said that the focus on women was strategic considering their invaluable contributions to agricultural development in Africa.
Dr Ylva Hillbur, IITA Deputy Director General (Research), commended the researchers for their efforts in developing and dissemination of DT maize.
She noted that the DTMA project is important to Africa as it is addressing one of the most important constraints (drought) to maize production in the continent.
Launched in 2007, the DTMA project provides insurance against the risks of maize farming, using conventional breeding to develop and disseminate varieties that can provide a decent harvest under reduced rainfall.
Dr Baffour Badu-Apraku, IITA Breeder, who is also the West Africa Coordinator of the DTMA project, said that the project had so far recorded impressive milestones, mostly through the development of new varieties. For instance, between 2007 and 2010, Nigeria released 18 drought-tolerant maize varieties while Ghana released 13 under the same period.
Dr Badu-Apraku is hopeful that regional governments would support efforts to make these varieties available to farmers.
Participants from Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and the Republic of Benin said farmers in their respective countries love the varieties.
To effectively make the varieties available to more farmers, they proposed the strengthening of community seed producers to complement efforts of seed companies in the region.
“We cannot but bring in the community seed producers if we want more farmers to have access and adopt drought tolerant maize,” said the Acting Director General, Nigeria Seed Council, Dr Olatokun Olusegun.
Implemented by CIMMYT, IITA and national partners in 13 African countries of sub Saharan Africa; the third phase of the DTMA project will end in 2016.